The Source Of Our Joy

Written by: Rebecca Dotson

We poured the milk and pulled the hot sugar cookies out of the oven, carefully baked to perfection just the way Santa, or dad, likes them. The gifts were wrapped with attention to detail and placed under the gorgeous Christmas tree, laced with artificial snow. The crafts were made, the songs were sung, and the bannister leading up our staircase was decorated with perfectly tied garland and bows. In this moment, when the PJ’s came on and the lights went off, there was so much anticipation for me as a child.

Do you remember this moment?

The anticipation of Christmas morning is often filled with wonder, curiosity and self-reflection. The anxiety of, “Which one of Santa’s lists did I make?” that comes on Christmas Eve reminds me so much of life and the way that I often view my strengths, my shortcomings, joy and God’s favor in my adult life.

But joy always came in the morning.

The sun rose, if I slept that long, and the alarm went off. My heart would start racing as I opened the bedroom door and asked, “Can I come out now?”. As I turned the corner, I fully embraced time with my family, sticky-sweet pancakes and sausage and the giving of gifts specifically picked out with care for the recipient. Such unexplainable joy was present, absent of the worries that filled the heart on Christmas Eve.

I use a secular example as a metaphor for how we sometimes feel during the advent season. The “joy that comes with the morning” that David refers to in Psalm 30 may be something that is fairly easy for you to embrace this holiday season. But I would imagine there are some of us who are fixated on our shortcomings, our season of life and what we hoped this Christmas would look like.

Maybe you’re not sure if a wayward child will visit this Christmas.
Maybe you faced a divorce this year, and you’re not sure how to navigate the holidays with your children.
Maybe you’re still single, and once again, you don’t have a date to that Christmas party.
Maybe you miscarried this year and you have no idea how to face your family and this highly anticipated day with the longing in your heart to be called “mom”.

The definition of joy is “a source or cause of delight”. In the face of life, and all that it brings us, we have the privilege of choosing to let our cause of delight be Jesus this holiday season. But this privilege is a choice in the face of disappointment and less than desirable life circumstances.

However, if we focus on circumstance instead of the Savior, we are robbing ourselves of the Source of our joy – the true joy we have in knowing Jesus.

A Sunday school teacher of mine in elementary school shared an acronym for joy that has stuck with me for years. She said, “Joy is about having our priorities in the order of Jesus, others and then yourself.” We have so much to be grateful for and to “joy” or “delight’ in during this holiday season and so much truth that we can dwell on, even in the midst of hard times.

To be intentional about having a heart of gratitude and leaning into your true Source and Cause of delight, I challenge you to start a gratitude journal. Just try it until the new year! Who knows – maybe the habit will stick. Each night before going to bed, write down three things you are grateful for.

Some way you were able to bless someone that day.
A truth from Scripture you were reminded of.
A quality of God that you read about.
Someone you are thankful for and why.

In this season of giving and reflecting, this habit will help us “joy in Jesus” each day. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 6, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Heavenly Father,

Let our joy come from You this holiday season and always. Lord you are a good, good Father that you would send Your only Son to earth to do the unimaginable. To be born of a virgin, live a perfect life and then ultimately pay the price for our sins by dying on the cross. Help the “source of our delight” remain in You always and especially in this season. Your Word is never-changing and You are never failing. Help us claim these truths daily.

In Your Name,
Amen.

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Rebecca Dotson is the Founder and Chief Hatmaker of 818 Ministries based in Knoxville, TN (www.818Ministries.com). 818 Ministries is an organization dedicated to donating handmade hats and handwritten letters of encouragement to patients facing serious illnesses. This journey started for Rebecca after her mom’s victorious battle with breast cancer in 2014. She’s a marathon runner, coffee addict, bucket-list enthusiast, Jesus follower twenty-something on a quest to leave people better than she found them and knowing Jesus more fully than when she met them. Follow her (@rebecca.dotson) and 818 Ministries (@818ministries) on social media!

Is My Joy Evident To Others?

Written by: Rachel Shaw

Through my life, there aren’t very many memories that I can easily recall, but the ones that stand out so vividly are the ones that have changed me. A few years ago, a man walked into the front doors of our church in Amherstburg and I greeted him, welcoming him to the church. I knew pretty quickly that I recognized him as a customer at a local grocery store that I worked at. So, he continued attending the church over the next couple of months and we would talk from time to time. One day, the man approached me after church and began telling me that as he came through my till at the grocery store throughout the years, he noticed that over time something had changed in my demeanour. Since then, he had always wondered why that happened. I asked him to explain a little more about what he meant, and he said that I was more joyful. I was happier and I had a genuine smile. I asked him about when he started to notice this change in me and he told me it was the spring of 2010. I was amazed and told him that in May of that year, I gave my heart to the Lord and my life had been changed. I couldn’t believe that this man recognized the change in me!

As the years go on and the pain of life’s trials becomes more real, I feel that I have been losing that joy that was once so evident. Recently, our Pastor has been taking the congregation on a journey of restoring our joy from the inside out. He challenged us to find our joy from feeding our Spirit and spending time with the Lord instead of being tossed around by the trials of daily life. I’m learning that life will never be perfect but even through the difficulty; I can still have the joy of the Lord. Lately, my prayer has been, ‘Restore in me the joy of my salvation’, as I fix my eyes on Jesus and walk with Him in the midst of life’s storms. I challenge you women, to ponder on the questions “What gives me joy?” and “Is my joy evident to others?”

As we enter the Christmas season, be reminded of Jesus’ birth. Become joyful that he has saved you from your sins, and has called you to an eternal life with him!

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Rachel is a Christ follower, a wife to a Youth Pastor, and a mother of a one year old. She is a Child and Youth Worker at the Women’s Shelter in Chatham-Kent. Her family attends at Evangel Community Church and has a passion for young people. She enjoys long walks on the beach and warm chocolate brownies.

JOY

Written by: Angela Mercer

Earlier this year a dear friend of ours passed away. After a fierce battle with cancer, He went home to be with the Lord. During the months leading up to his death there were other circumstances in our lives that were heavily laid on our shoulders as well and it was everything in me to just breathe.

As pastors we have witnessed our fair share of heartache, we have walked people through the death of their friends and even children. It is never easy but our friend passing away hit uncomfortably close to home. My husband had been quite close to this young man and our kids loved him a lot too. It was just a really difficult time. I am sure as you read this you can relate.

There was one week in particular where my emotions were just so raw that I would burst to into tears at the most inopportune time. I don’t think I have ever experienced anything like it. It took me off guard and I felt I had no control over it. I would feel my blood pressure rise and I could barely catch my breath. I felt like I was unravelling.

I remember the moment I had with the Lord like it was yesterday. I was feeling so overwhelmed. I can’t imagine what our friend’s parents were feeling or his wife, all I knew is that if I was in that much pain I couldn’t imagine how they were feeling. The heaviness in my heart was beyond comprehension. I cried out to the Lord. I felt like I was sinking and the weight was too much to bear. I was emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted.

Psalm 16:11 says, “…You will fill me with joy in Your presence.”

I couldn’t imagine what it was like to just feel better but beyond that how does one find joy in these circumstances. James 1 reminds us that we are to consider it joy when we face trials. Joy… really? I am not sure who reads that verse and thinks, but how?

My pastor recently expressed that trying to have joy is like squeezing water with your fist. The more you squeeze the more the water just squishes through your fingers. It’s fleeting. We don’t find joy, or try to have joy. When we attempt to manufacture something that is not innately in us it was just fade.

So, I realized that the only way I was going to have any joy in my life was through my quiet time in the presence of God. It seems that when we are going through the darkest times of our lives, these are the times we have the hardest time having any desire for God or His Word. But even if we are to just sit there and ask to fill us. Expressing that we can do nothing without Him and we need His presence.

During this Christmas season, if joy is some far off distant fantasy, know that the only joy you will ever experience is in the nearness of God. He will give you a joy that is not of this world. It does not come out of circumstance, feelings or things. It comes directly from the heart of God, who IS joy, to your heart.

Praying you experience joy this season in a way you have never experienced it before.

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Angela is passionate about Jesus, women and building community. She fully believes that women are the heartbeat of the church. Angela has been married to her favourite man, Blair, for 17 years and together they pastor Gateway Church in Komoka, Ontario. When Angela is not leading worship or running some type of women’s event, you will find her doing a DIY, reading a good book, drinking her husbands amazing coffee or planning a meal with friends. One day she hopes to make pie as good as her mom’s. Angela has two incredible kids to call her own (Isaac 13, Michaela 12) who keep her quick and on her feet and enjoying every single moment of life.

 

Joy, Is It Possible Midst My Grief?

Written by: Brenda Earley

Joy, joy, joy! (in my most Scrooge-y BAH-HUMBUG! voice)

‘Tis the season. (so soon?)

Merry Christmas. (sigh)

Season’s Greetings. (not)

Have a joyous holiday! (groan)

These are familiar sentiments during the Christmas season, but this year my heart is not singing the joyful tunes of Christmas.

Joy is seemingly impossible this year since my sweet Grandmother passed away merely two months ago! Memories flood this heart of mine; she was my inspiration, my wise counsellor and a source of my joy! And, most importantly, Gram was filled with a joy only Jesus could give.

Throughout my childhood, I have many memories of her; but the ones this season brings to mind seem to illuminate my joy-less world. Christmas Eve was always spent with my Gram doing so many special things– from using colored pencils to decorate wood ornaments, to baking cookies, to singing Christmas carols — this was a special time of year! And her presence made it all the more.

Every Christmas Eve for the past few years, she would give each great grandchild a well thought out gift, a gift from her heart. A Chik-fil-a gift card wrapped between a hamburger bun, money wrapped tightly inside a straw or taped to a Kit Kat wrapper- whatever the gift, each child was star gazed, filled with anticipation and wonder as they unwrapped their gift. Her love shown in this gift was timeless; and, oh the joy felt as they accepted it.

Which is why, I know Gram would want to keep these traditions alive. Even if it’s difficult. Even through the tears. Even though she’s no longer with us, she would want me to feel the JOY of Christmas despite her absence.

(My Gram, pictured, far left)

I don’t wish a Christmas overwhelmed with grief on anyone. But how do I have joy at Christmas when missing my Gram depletes this joy?

As Gram would say, happiness is found within each memory, each tradition; but genuine, hope- filled joy is found in Jesus. It is unpacked in the story of Christmas. We can have true joy when:

  • We rejoice like Zechariah because of new beginnings. (Luke 1:14)
  • We seek Him like the wise men. (Matthew 2:2)
  • We see the wonder of the newborn babe like the shepherds. (Luke 2:20)
  • We find joy in the unexpected like Mary. (Luke 1:46)
  • We hear the gladness like the angels sang. (Luke 2:13-14)
  • We love like God did as He gave us the gift of His Son, Jesus. (John 3:16)

And special moments create special memories. Gram’s presence is stamped on every memory, on every family gathering, on every tradition. She’s felt all around us and she would remind us — God’s presence in our hearts is where joy is birthed.

Joy is not wrapped inside the boxes we call presents. Joy is a gift God gave when His Son came into this world as a newborn babe. It’s God’s presence wrapped in our hearts! That’s what makes joy possible midst grief!

So this Christmas, I want Gram’s memories, family traditions to remain present. And the only way to truly do this is to choose Jesus, our joy in this Season.

So for you, my friend, at Christmas and all year long, I pray “the God, the source of hope will fill you, completely to the full, with joy and peace while you trust in Him.” (Romans 15:13)

May you have joy-to-the-FULL this Christmas season!

~brenda

https://youtu.be/fG9B0s30-HQ

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Brenda Earley is a wife to one, a busy mom to three, and volunteers with Proverbs 31 Ministries Online Bible Studies as Study Leader and Writer. She is faithful to her church and uses her musical talents on the worship team as a Worship Leader and pianist. When she is not writing, singing, or playing piano, she is busy with attending basketball games and other school functions. You may reach her on Facebook: Brenda Earley. 💕

THE MAGIC OF CHRISTmas SPIRIT

Written by: Maria Theresa McCann

The Christmas season is upon us. A time of year when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and where the longing for love, family and friends is placed center stage. Also, people are more open to be loving, kind, forgiving and thoughtful. Every year my goal during Christmas is to find that feeling that goes deep inside the soul, some call it the “Christmas spirit”. A feeling of peace, joy, love and savouring each moment by living it to its fullest potential. True Christmas must be celebrated in our hearts and souls. I think what the world needs today, is to find that magical feeling and fall in love with Jesus all over again.

For moms, Christmas can be a stressful time of the year. We are pulled in so many directions: house cleaning, work, laundry, gift shopping, menu planning, hosting holiday gatherings, and let’s not forget, decorating the house. Then if we add our children’s requests – usually last minute – for teacher’s gifts, pot luck dishes, and friend’s gifts; the list becomes endless. When life becomes overwhelming during he Holidays, I always feel the need to sit quietly and talk to Jesus and really think about the gift of His birth and what His life really means to us all. In the end, His life was really an act of unconditional love, as He really came to die, so we can have the gift of eternal life with God.

In life, there are days I feel in control and on task; while; other days, I feel like I am falling apart. Many times, it is in those moments where I feel defeated that something amazing happens and God just reminds me of how much He loves me; even though, I think He is not listening or doesn’t care. I remember this one day, where my family got on my last nerve. Requests were coming in from all directions, the to do list was a mile long, and the way I was spoken to was not nice, and made me feel unloved. I decided that I had had enough with the day, and retreated to my bedroom to have a chat with God, more like a ranting session.

I told Jesus that all I wanted was for Him to come down from Heaven, have a tea with me, and then give me some advice, and tell me what was He thinking when He blessed me with four children, and what made Him think, I could handle it. Then before going back to Heaven, I told Him I would want a great big bear hug, because I know, that one of His hugs would make me feel loved beyond what words could describe. His hug would also give me enough energy and strength to last a year.  I fell asleep that night, telling Jesus that all I wanted, was His hug so that I could feel loved.

The next morning, I woke up, went to the kitchen, and proceeded to start my day. At one point, my two daughters came to tell me that our neighbour, little Ava Kennedy was at the door, and wanted to see me.  When I went to the front door, she handed me a gift. It was a white envelope. I said thank you, placed it on a table at the front entrance and proceeded to walk back into the kitchen. Ava stopped me and said: “oh no, Mrs. McCann, you have to open it now!”

I walked back, opened the envelope, and took out a piece of paper. Then, I took out a second piece of paper with pointy things. I told Ava it was very creative, which really meant I had no clue what I was looking at. Then, suddenly, Ava says: “Mrs. McCann, I made you a HUG!!” I immediately looked down and realized, that what I was holding, were two paper hands which were attached together by a green ribbon representing the circle of a hug. Chills came down my back and my heart stopped. Luckily, the school bus arrived and as it pulled away, I sat down at my front window and began to cry. I had received my hug! Not the hug that I wanted, but maybe the hug that I needed. In that moment, I felt that Jesus had heard my prayer, knew my pain, and wanted to show me He was listening, He cared, and He loved me.

As I sat in my rocking chair, crying, and savouring this moment of awe, I could not help but feel Jesus’s love swell up in my heart, and I fell in love with Him all over again.

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Maria lives in Tecumseh, Ontario with her best friend Sean, who she has been married to for 25 years. They have been blessed with 4 busy children: Patrick (22), Avery (17), Tia-Lynne (15) and Lianna-Maria (14). Maria has felt the calling to speak and write about the importance of putting God first in our lives. She is in the process of finishing her first book entitled “Footprints of Angels” being published by West Bow Press in 2018. Maria enjoys reading, listening to Christian music, photography, walking along shores of lakes and oceans, baking with her girls, and spending time with God in her prayer room. Maria will always cherish the experience of having lived in the small town of Bannia, in the province of Pordenone, Italy for 8 years where she had the opportunity to learn about her Italian heritage and experience first hand its customs and culinary diversity. Maria believes in giving back to the community. She is the Chair of Tecumseh Vista Secondary School Advisory Council  and is the Chair of the Tecumseh Community Policing Committee with the Tecumseh OPP Detachment.

Do You Want To Be Well?

Written by: Mandy Lawrence-Hill

“When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to be well?” —John 5:6

I remember that day in the coffee shop like it was yesterday. I sat across from a new friend in ministry who was suffering through divisions in her marriage. Tucked into the depths of my purse sat a gift I brought for her. A gift that would, if she were willing, completely change her life.

I took out the meticulously wrapped package and cautiously asked her the question; Do you want your marriage to be well? She looked back at me for a few moments; pensive. It seemed she wanted to give her most genuine answer and she was figuring out for herself what that answer would be. “Yes, she carefully answered. I want my marriage to be well.”

I shared with her a lesson that I learned myself in my young marriage. Love is a choice, not a feeling. If you want your marriage to be well, you must choose to love. There are moments and seasons in a marriage that you will not want this to be the solution because choosing to love is hard work.

Sliding the gift onto the table that separated us, I encouraged her to open it. Inside was a book called ‘The Love Dare’. She looked back at me, confused. I shared more. Between the covers of this book was a months worth of challenges. Each new day the author gives you a task to complete for your husband…some easy, some incredibly difficult and sacrificial. Each task honouring your marriage vows to one another and further developing a habit to choose love.

Somewhere along the way, she simply stopped choosing. She didn’t mean to stop choosing. Life had thrown difficult circumstances at her from many directions and she was tired and weary; unaware that she had stopped. For accountability and support I offered to do the challenges alongside her with my husband. What a blessing for me!

The way the Lord used this book to restore my friend’s marriage is amazing. I love to see them together today, weathering life’s storms with arms linked, choosing to love no matter what circumstances they face. Fully understanding that the act of choosing to love often surpasses our natural instincts and requires careful intention. Knowing that oftentimes this choice to love will not be easy, but will be worth it.

Is your marriage struggling this christmas season? Do you want your marriage to be well? Don’t place the survival of your marriage on the hope that feelings of love will come back on their own— make the choice to love instead. Choose to sacrifice. Choose to serve. You’ll be blessed and your spouse will be too. Oh, and did I mention choosing to love is also contagious? When you choose love, you spread love as well! (John 13:34-35 says  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”)

Praying you experience love in a supernatural way this christmas.

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Mandy is the founder of the ministry blog We are His daughters and thoroughly enjoys writing and providing leadership to this ministry. Mandy is an imperfect work in progress! She loves the Lord with her whole heart and counts it her biggest privilege to serve Him in ministry however He leads. Born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she now resides in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia with her family. She has been married to her handsome husband Nathan for 13 years and together they have served in ministry for the entirety of their marriage. Nathan & Mandy have four beautiful children; Benjamin; Sophia; Spencer & Grayson. Mandy is passionate about singing, worship leading and music. She loves reading, writing, taking pictures, studying the bible and sipping peppermint mocha’s at Starbucks while chatting with a friend! She strives to be tidier, more organized (yes, she is a little compulsive!), a little more Martha Stewart-esque, and a little less ‘unglued’. Most of all she seeks to be holier and to love God through serving her family and her community.

Love Says, “I’m In”

Written by: Lindsey Feldpausch

I wonder if somewhere in the corners of her mind, Mary, while breathing through labor pains in the stable, thought to herself, “I didn’t sign up for this.” She must’ve thought a lot of things, but I wonder about this particular one. What did she do to deserve this kind of birth story for her son? Wouldn’t God have surely provided something better for her? For her Son— His Son?

I am not proud to admit this, but I have gone through a lot less than delivering a baby in the backyard of a hotel with hay beneath me, and I have said that phrase, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Sometimes, when I’m caught off guard, when life takes an unexpected, unpleasant turn. That phrase lurks in the desolate corners of my thought-life. It’s an immature thing to think and I don’t even want to think this phrase.  So, why does it linger? It’s silly, really. None of us actually signed up for anything or did we?

As I’ve thought about it, and considered Jesus, I’ve actually come to a firm conclusion. The moment that I said yes to Jesus, that was when I signed up for everything. Jesus, at some divine point, signed up for everything too. As he lay in that manger on a starry night, babe and king of the world — he was saying yes to life on earth and an excruciating death on the cross. He knew the plan and yet, he said, “I’m in.”

When life gets sour, instead of saying “I didn’t sign up for this,” what if I said, “I’m in”?

As I’ve turned thoughts about this phrase over and over in my mind, I’ve come to a few conclusions about love:

  1. Love says “I’m in” when circumstances change.
  2. Love says “I’m in” when people change.
  3. Love says “I’m in” because Jesus showed us how.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

What a demonstration that was. He didn’t look at us and think, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Instead God provided the most beautiful, sacrificial, and awe-inspiring expression of what love looks like and said, “I’m in.”

This Christmas if you find yourself in a long line, if you find yourself cleaning up after a sick child, if you find yourself unsuccessfully trying to repair a relationship, if you find yourself lonely, sorrowful, frustrated, or afraid, remember that God demonstrated to us a love that said, “I’m in.”

The “I’m in” love is not an easy love, but it’s a rich love.

Jesus signed up for you, even at your worst. I invite you to say, these words — perhaps even as an act of worship. Also, it’s a much shorter phrase to remember than the first one. 😉 May your Christmas and everyday-life be filled with this robust, “I’m in” kind of love.

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Lindsey Feldpausch is a writer, speaker, and graphic designer. She lives in a small town outside of Grand Rapids Michigan. Married to a humble, handsome Youth Pastor, together they have four children. She is a Projects Manager for a Proverbs 31 Author & Speaker, Spokeswoman for Jonathan Park Audio Adventures, and Reviewer of Family Products at TheBetterMom.com. She can’t wait to tell you a story and can’t wait to listen to yours. Jesus is her Savior. She is currently unfinished.

The Loving Truth

Written by: Dr. Michelle Bengtson 

Sometimes the words of others can leave us feeling hurt and unloved.

The words she slung cut through my heart and left it splayed open like a gaping wound. They were her opinion, but professed as if they were gospel truth. Hearing my faults recited one after another, when all I had tried to do was help, left me shrinking back more and more into myself, trying to retreat to safety before the only thing left was bloody stumps.

Have you ever been unfairly accused by another? Wounded by their untrue words? Where do you go then?

Once I was safely alone, and could process the interaction, the tears flowed. “Lord, you know the truth. You see my heart. Search it. If anything there displeases you, uproot it then replace it with more of you. But Father, heal the wounds that have come from another person’s assessment. Reveal the truth.”

I’m so grateful that in His gentleness, he reminded me of Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV) “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving kindness.’”

Have you ever considered what that means? In Hebrew, everlasting means “forever, eternity.” His declaration that He has loved with an everlasting love means He loved us from before time began and will continue to love us throughout eternity. He loves us on our good days, and on the days we are not proud of and would prefer to forget!

In the first part of that verse, when the Lord said He loved you, that usage of love meant to like, be a friend, be a lover, an ally. And when He declares that He has drawn us with loving kindness, in Hebrew it means “loyal.”

Oh how I need someone who will always love me, despite my flaws, and remain loyal to me on my good days and my less than stellar days.

I don’t know where you are today, or what circumstance this finds you in. I don’t know if you ever feel alone, unwanted, or rejected, or perhaps you are fortunate to be surrounded by the love of family and friends.

What I know is that God has declared to us in this one verse that He has been a loyal ally, loving us forever from the beginning of time through eternity.

The love of family and friends can be an extension of God’s love toward us. But we must not look to them to validate our worth or establish our identity. People will let us down. They will sometimes unknowingly hurt, or accuse without all the facts. Their love is often conditional on what we say or do, or how we make them feel. But God promises to love us unconditionally with an unfailing love that is not dependent on our performance.

In Numbers 23:19 (NIV), we are encouraged that “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.” What a comfort it is to know that God cannot lie and God does not change His mind. What He sets His mind to, He will accomplish—including loving you and me for all eternity.

I’ve never known a love like that from another person. People let others down, not even because they mean to, but because we’re human. Our feelings are capricious. Our likes, our wants, our attitudes change without reason or warning. But God’s love for us is a fact, not a feeling, and it does not change.

Wherever this finds you today, I pray you will rest in His unfailing love, as your friend and your ally.

I’d love to hear in the comments below how He has shown you his love recently!

Because of Him, #HopePrevails!

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Dr. Michelle Bengtson (PhD, Nova Southeastern University) is an international speaker, and the author of best-selling “Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and the newly released companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.”  She has been a neuropsychologist for more than twenty years. She is in private practice in Southlake, Texas where she evaluates, diagnoses, and treats children and adults with a variety of medical and mental health disorders. She knows pain and despair firsthand and combines her professional expertise and personal experience with her faith to address issues surrounding medical and mental disorders, both for those who suffer and for those who care for them. She offers sound practical tools, affirms worth, and encourages faith. Dr. Bengtson offers hope as a key to unlock joy and relief—even in the middle of the storm. She and her husband of 30 years have two teenage sons, and reside in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. She blogs regularly on her own site: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com

For more hope, stay connected with Michelle at:

To order Hope Prevails: http://drmichellebengtson.com/hope-prevails-book/

Website: http://www.DrMichelleBengtson.com

Blog: http://drmichellebengtson.com/category/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DrMichelleBengtson

Twitter: http://www.Twitter.com/DrMBengtson (@DrMBengtson)

LinkedIn: http://www.LinkedIn.com/in/DrMichelleBengtson

Google+: http://www.google.com/+MichelleBengtson

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/drmichellebengtson

Pinterest:  http://www.Pinterest.com/Drbhopeprevails

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn92DHzGSZk8psDb2FKazOQ

To order Hope Prevails from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Hope-Prevails-Insights-Personal-Depression/dp/080072707X/

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For a Free eBook on How to Help a Depressed Loved One, click here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/how-to-help-a-depressed-loved-one-ebook/

For more helpful information about what you need to know when you have a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/10-things-to-know-if-you-have-a-depressed-loved-one/

For more about what not to say to a depressed loved one, read here: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-not-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/ while here are suggestions about supportive things you can say to a depressed loved one: http://drmichellebengtson.com/what-to-say-when-a-loved-one-is-depressed/

Board Games, Snow & Jesus

Written by: Rylie Wistuba

Last Christmas, my husband, Branden, and I celebrated our first Christmas married! Waking up to celebrate Christmas morning together, having breakfast and opening our presents to each other was so peaceful and made me feel so loved. After we had our little Christmas morning together, we went to my parents house. We decided to start the tradition of buying a board game for my side of the family every year, and playing it Christmas day. We also came up with a fun rule: whoever goes on their phone during the game gets a handful of snow to the face.

We were all having playing “The Game of Things” when the inevitable happened. My mom picked up her phone. My husband Branden always takes things to the next level, so he sprinted outside to grab huge armfuls of snow. My sister Zoe and I teamed up to try and corner my mom. Rule were rules, she had to “face” the consequences! We eventually rounded her up, and Branden had the honour of smashing snow into her face. We all had a great laugh, and went outside to build a snowman and have a snowball fight. Then, we all dressed up in our Christmas pyjamas and went to see a movie. We all agreed: it was one of our favourite Christmas’ ever!

I loved having my family around me, fully present and enjoying each other. Just as being together at Christmas nurtures the relationship I have with my family, it reminds me how incredible it is that I have a family of believers through Christ. In the morning, when Branden and I spent time alone, reminds me of how the the Holy Spirit moves and speaks when we are alone with Him: one on one with each other, with no distractions.

I love that God pursues a relationship with us in a family setting, as our Father, and one on one as a Friend. We broke the relationship He set out for us to have together, but He chose to reconcile it by paying the price, which was death:

“but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:17)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬

He humbled himself by coming to earth as a baby and then died to bridge the divide we had made because of our sin, that is the ultimate act of love. I am so grateful for the gift He gave us: a relationship with no division, a family fully together again just like it should’ve been all along. How much does He love us? “Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭36:5

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Rylie is an avid tea-drinker, God-worshiper, and music lover. She lives in Windsor, ON with her amazing husband Branden and their big puppy, Aunna. She currently volunteers in the youth ministry & worship ministry at Amherstburg Community Church.

Mary Consoles Eve

Written by: Julia Bracewell

As a 19-year-old I first saw the image “Mary Consoling Eve” being used during Advent liturgy at my church. It immediately struck me as a beautiful image and I was drawn to the comfort and warmth brought by the truth it represented. However, the more I journey with God the more personal this image becomes.

I have always admired Mary. Given a task that in her context could bring intense emotional and physical pain, she never wavered or doubted, but entered the work ahead of her with joy and humility. In complete faith she said “be it unto me as you will”- these are not the words of a disconnected servant, but the overflow of a heart in communion with its creator. The obedience of Mary brought a humble Jesus to become like us, live among us and, in love, atone for our sin.

In my faith journey there have been seasons of joy and delight where glorifying God has been as easy as breathing; and there has also been seasons of hunger and struggle where I am far more in love with my comfort and my will than my Father. It has been in those seasons that God has pulled back the curtain of my heart to show me that any longing, or loneliness or dissatisfaction I am feeling is always a true longing after Him. What Eve was longing for in tasting the fruit was a longing that only her Father could provide. This is Satan’s trick, to make us think other things can fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts.

This advent season I find myself grieving with Eve. God has reminded me of my longing for him; He has shown me that I have been going to other dry wells when His is the only full one that satisfies. I’ve wept because I can see and feel this longing to be in perfect communion with Him, yet my sin continually gets in the way. I need a Saviour. This advent, this image has brought me hope and comfort. Right now, I see so much of Eve in me, but Mary reaches out to console me and connect me to my Saviour. She reminds me that this is temporary and a day is coming when that sin will be gone and I will finally have perfect communion with my Father. My longing will be satisfied.

This advent while we anticipate Christmas as a time to celebrate the coming of our Saviour in the past, we live out a small enactment of the greater picture. Knowing that Christ’s life and death has made it possible, the Christian’s heart is filled anticipation for Him to come in the future, create a new Heaven and Earth, and begin a time of perfect, unending communion with Him- the fulfillment of all desire.

A Prayer To Do The Father’s Will

Father, be it unto me as You will,
Your beloved, adopted child;
Handmade, valued, unique and known.
I am confident in your promises and your provision,
My hands and my heart are open to what you give, do and plan;
I am your willing one.
Father, I am often like Eve,
Who, hearing your will, believed hers to be better.
Instead, make me like Mary,
Who, hearing your will, did not fight or fear,
But in faith, joyfully and humbly submitted.
Teach me constant prayer,
The discipline of peace,
The choice for joy.
Give me faith and help my unbelief.
Let my faith not rest upon fleeting emotions,
But instead on the ability to choose you again and again,
Though my flesh fails.
I am yours,
Be it until me as You will.
Amen.

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Julia Bracewell is a fourth year Business – International Development student at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario. She is also co-founder of the Acacia Movement, a non-profit organization aiming to educate people about issues women in the Global South are facing and connect them to practical opportunities where they can work against these injustices. In her spare time she enjoys exploring the outdoors, writing music and meeting people.